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Helyn Clack writes about libraries in the MJ

The MJ has published an article by Cabinet Member for Community Services and the 2012 Games Helyn Clack about the use of Surrey County Council’s online library complementing traditional branches.

The new Woking library. Click image to download

Story that appeared in the MJ:

The number of people using Surrey’s online library is set to outstrip those visiting a branch in person, new figures have revealed.

But despite the explosion in popularity of digital services, those predicting the death of local branches are mistaken, according to the woman in charge of libraries at Surrey County Council Helyn Clack.

She said:’Online use is complementing the traditional library, not replacing it. People are combining the use of our digital services with visits to a branch. For example, they’re using a computer to check their account, pay fines and renew books, before visiting their local library to browse the selection and pick up a book.

Cabinet Member for Community Services and the 2012 Games Helyn Clack

The figures support the argument. In the financial year 2011/12, there were almost 3.8 million visits to Surrey’s online library – an increase of 20% on the previous year. During the same period, the number of visits to local branches remained above a healthy four million.

With this trend expected to continue this year, online usage may already outnumber physical visits. This won’t be known for sure until CIPFA* release its next set of figures in 2013.

There’s no doubt the way people read, borrow and buy books is undergoing a digital revolution and libraries, like the publishing industry, must adapt. But that doesn’t mean the death of the local library. Instead libraries are reinventing themselves to cater for the changing demands of library users.

For example, our newly refurbished branch in Woking re-opened with 20,000 new books, free wi-fi access, a new children’s library, self service terminals and computers to use for free, combining traditional and digital library services.

Earlier in the year, Surrey County Council reinforced its commitment to libraries by opening a new branch in Dorking, located in heart of the shopping centre to encourage more people to use it. In the library’s first full six months of operation (February to July 2012) almost 90,000 people visited. This represents a 63% increase on the same period the previous year when the library was at a different location.

The council’s latest digital development for libraries is a free app available for both Apple and Android devices. It is the fastest way people can reserve, renew, browse and check their library accounts, both at home and on the move.’

Take a tour of the new Woking library by following this link.

* CIPFA is the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.

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